1920 portrait of Anne Finlay by Dorothy Johnstone

Very very ironically Anne Finlay is best known at the moment because of a painting of her: it is by Dorothy Johnstone and was used on the poster for the recent Modern Scottish Women Exhibition in Edinburgh. This portrait is now back at AberdeenArt Gallery. There is a letter from Anne Finlay in the Royal Academy archive which reveals that she lived at 155 Sheen Road. Will any kind Persephone reader living nearby please go past some time soon and pay homage to Anne.

Finlay, Anne, 1898-1963; Carole

Carole by Anne Finlay is undated, it’s at Orleans House Gallery in Richmond (Surrey) and was presented by the artist after the death of the painter Philip Connard, with whom she lived in Richmond.

Finlay, Anne, 1898-1963; The Skipping Rope

The Skipping Rope 1952 is at the Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture. What a clever painting! Not a bit kitsch and with such life and wonderful colour. And there is the mother reading again. Anne Finlay is definitely one of our new very favourite painters.

Finlay, Anne, 1898-1963; A Woman's LifeWhy isn’t this painting better known? It says so much. Anne Finlay’s A Woman’s Life 1938, again at Leamington Spa. Apparently this is a ‘study’ (perhaps a chalk drawing?). Please will any Leamington Spa Persephone reader go and pay homage to it!

Finlay, Anne, 1898-1963; Ronnie at Bedtime

‘Country Cousin’ who writes the Forum found a marvellous painting to illustrate Enid Bagnold’s The Squire – it’s by Anne Finlay(1898-1963), of whom regretfully we had never heard. So she is the subject of the Post this week. Here are some details about her. This is Ronnie at Bedtime 1935, a painting full of fascinating detail; it’s at Leamington Spa Art Gallery. And here is the link to the Forum with the painting of The Baby.


Finally: the perfect thing to say as you hand a wedge of cheese and some biscuits to a couple who are apparently in evening dress. Marghanita Laski was catty and kind in equal measures, but always funny, wise and perceptive. And profound.  Apologies is in the shop, do ask to look at it if you come in before Christmas. (Also, it was a pity in a way that she wrote an article in the TLS in the early 1970s, just after Virago had been launched, deploring the existence of a women-only publishing house. She used the same argument as the women who didn’t want the vote, who wanted to change the system, not accept the system but modify it: Marghanita hoped that one day there would be no need for a women-only publisher, for male and female writers to be treated equally. One can  see her point, but…)

Thursday copy

This is on the cover, unsurprisingly. The heading, ‘I may be only your mother, but’ is the stuff of several Persephone novels (Hostages to Fortune, Family Roundabout, Princes in the Land and more) and is both funny and painful; it includes such ouch phrases as ‘I’m not a hotel-keeper”, ‘it wouldn’t hurt you to be a bit more kind’ and ‘I’ve been to school too’. Every single phrase has been thought at some point by every single mother in the world but (ideally) never said. Or only in total extremis. (Notice the details: the girls clothes, the expression on her face of half amazement, half horror, the mother’s carefully curled hair, and the ancestral portrait behind her.)


‘TV – well, actually yes, but only because – of the children, more and more people are, I’ve a friend in the trade, of things like the Coronation, one can knit at the same time, it’s easier than talking’ etc.


‘No, I haven’t actually read it, but –’  begins: ‘I’ve seen the reviews, it’s one of a set, I thought I would when I have my operation, I’m not a great reader I’m afraid, you see the author’s a friend of my mother’s, I saw the film, everyone tells me it’s frightfully good’ and thus continues for twenty lines more, concluding with what this oh-so annoying woman says to the poor man peacefully reading. (Interestingly, the book is rather large so is probably non-fiction rather than ‘only a novel’.)


‘Her first serious novel will show her to be as great a master of that art as she has already shown herself a master of satire’ wrote the Manchester Guardian percipiently in 1948, the year before the publication of Little Boy Lost. For Marghanita Laski began her writing career as a satirist with Love on the Super Tax in 1944, To Bed with Grand Music in 1946 and Tory Heaven in 1948. We publish the latter in April and are alternately laughing and crying as we get it ready for the printer. It is about the England that the thirty-five or so rightest of right-wing Tories  – currently holding the government and the country in thrall – would like to create. The reason we had not considered reprinting it before is that it seemed irrelevant. Now, in its description of the vision of Jacob Rees-Mogg et al it has become shatteringly relevant. And very, very funny, if one can bear to laugh. But even after writing Little Boy Lost, The Village and The Victorian Chaise-longue, Marghanita Laski continued to write satire. In 1955 she published Apologies, twenty-two pieces (originally published in magazines) illustrated by ‘Anton’ (Antonia Yeoman). Here is the first drawing in the book illustrating ‘To Tell You the Truth’ and here are the last twelve lines: ‘I did wonder, I read it so long ago I’ve forgotten it, I started in plenty of time, it’s mother I mind for, she just did it to be unpleasant, I’ll definitely bring it next time, you know you can say what you like to me, I didn’t see you, I’m speaking as your friend, there’s  no reason at all – she just doesn’t like me, I’m not interested in men, no one would know unless you told them, I did try.’ Ouch and triple ouch.

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